UKIES (pronounced as “You-Keys”), is a designer line of handmade, fashion-conscious women’s shoes that started in 2014 to answer a simple question. ‘Why should women have to choose between looking and feeling great’? Its 2017 people, and we still use phrases like ‘beauty is pain’ and ‘no pain, no gain’. By the end of 2016, there were over 3,710,260,959 females. Yet as the numbers grow, the design concepts seem to have stagnated for the past 100 years in the philosophy that comfort and style just can’t coexist. The good news is that there are designers out there that are trying to reinvent the shoe-wearing experience. Two of them being Kavita and Umaesh Khaitan.
Umaesh and Kavita believe in bringing solutions to ameliorate people’s lives. When they moved to the USA, they were in awe of the opportunities available to women. So, why were professional women still tolerating torturous footwear? With Kavita’s sense of design and style mixed in with her husband’s experience in manufacturing and engineering, they decided to design heels that women would want to keep on. This led to UKIES’ decision to infuse tech comfort into their shoes. “We chose to look at it as an engineering problem, and we built the technology that wasn’t there,” said Kavita Khaitan in an interview with PR Newswire.
Through a two year-long process of research and development – working with a polymer chemist, a local podiatrist and a footwear professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology – they were able to rebuild the interior of the high heel and introduce their patented nanoGel® technology. Their aim was to show significant improvement in the comfort level of typical heels of the same height, with reduced stress at the pressure points. Their solution: two shock-absorbing layers of material. The first layer absorbs the ground impact produced by daily walking. The second layer reallocates body weight pressure put on shoes. Using their Pressure Map Experiment, which involves walking on a treadmill, you can see the amount of pressure induced by standard and UKIES heels. Then there’s the antimicrobial Coolmax lining which not only keeps your feet cool and dry, but also odour-free. Learn more about how the shoe tech works in the video below:
UKIES may care a great deal about what goes on inside their shoes, but they also care about the exterior too. Kavita is tasked with sketching the designs before they are sent to technical designer in Italy. They chose to do their production in Spain, working with shoe artisans that have learnt the trade from their forefathers. Using leather and suede from Italy and Spain, and the occasional calf hair and crepe fabric, they trained a shoe factory to handle their nanoGel® technology, and combine the elements for the final product.
Initially, their first collection was a classic all-leather Duchess of Cambridge–style pumps theme, that incorporated only two styles: the Arianna (pointy toe, three-inch heel) and the Paris (rounded toe, 3.5-inch platform); each in four colours. The second collection evolved to incorporate a swatch of floral leather, as well as some crystal-laden prototypes, in six more styles and a wider colour range. Height wise, the second collection got more variety, extending from 1.75 to four inches. Women can now find multiple shoe types under the UKIES banner. This includes flats, pumps, wedges, sandals and boots, which they allege can be worn for any occasion, and should be able to transition from day to night.
UKIES makes their intentions clear, straight from their brand name which is an acronym for our founders Umaesh (U) and Kavita (K), Innovation (I), Empowerment (E), and Style (S). By looking at shoe design from a different perspective, they found a way for technology and fashion to coexist. With four patent numbers under their belt, this brand is doing what other shoe brands have failed to do; put feet health first. Most importantly, if more designers continue to think along these lines, there’s hope that women’s feet can one day could cease to suffer inessentially for beauty’s sake.